Original photo by Nicole Garmston, Herald Sun 18/01.
While the Australian Open played out just 2 blocks away, the Melbourne Council and the Herald Sun focused common attention on the ‘scourge’ and ‘blight’ of homelessness ‘festering’ outside Flinders St Station. They called it a ‘crisis’, they adduced some anonymous all-powerful tourist disdain that said ‘it’s not a good look for our city’, and they offered binary polls to their bigoted readers to create a fake consensus. Be careful to notice how they whisper thesis insidious narratives in your ear. The Melbourne govt claimed they have no resources to help these people and impugned their collective status, labelling huge swathes of subaltern people ‘not really homeless’ drug addicts. They suggested giving police more powers to move them (out of sight out of mind) increasing poorness from a social canker to de facto crime. The media filmed them like they lived in a zoo, exploiting them for clicks and views. The police deprecated them with customary inhuman disrespect; reducing them to jobs to be done and processes and stats. The everyman in his ivory mortmain called it a disgusting sight as if he had to look at Robert Doyle’s neck or housing affordability statistics every day on the way to work and not just people exactly like him but without the momentum to stabilise their lives. And the whole time this sordid drama played out with everyone lingering at the pulpit saying a whole lot of grandiloquent nothing and no one offering sympathy or common sense or doing anything, while those without homes remained constantly on view like they always are, the Australian Open finished. No money to give someone a life but a total of a 50 million dollar purse being sponsored by the ANZ, and Kia and Rolex and over a quarter of a million dollars revenue entering the city of Melbourne in just over a fortnight (well over 10 million dollars of which is pure profit). And while the duality off having one of the worlds most expensive sporting events– where a bath towel from the gift shop costs up to $100 and a hotdog runs nine bucks– only 90 seconds walk from people are sleeping on hard concrete, four deep, covered in newspapers with trauma pets and balled-up clothes and days of stubble and dirt painting their face, may not affect you, as it doesn’t the media or authorities or cherished profit margins or the cosmopolitan status of the city, it does affect them. Every ‘move along’ issued to a homeless person creating embarrassment and uncertainty, every time you look away from them and refocus on the dim hallucination of your future they’re still there, struggling, human, exactly the same as you if you just knew it.